Tottenham crack open a new Premier League season by hosting Southampton on Saturday afternoon.
The last time Antonio Conte took charge of an English side’s opening game of the season, his reigning champions Chelsea lost 3-2 to Burnley at home, ending the match with nine players.
Here’s the lineup Conte may deploy to avoid a repeat of that best-forgotten calamity.
Hugo Lloris (GK) – Tottenham’s skipper hasn’t missed a minute of Premier League football since March 2020 – pre-pandemic.
Cristian Romero (CB) – Since arriving in Europe from Argentina four years ago, only two players across the entirety of the continent’s top five leagues have amassed more yellow cards than Romero (45).
Eric Dier (CB) – The modern art enthusiast has racked up more career wins against Southampton (10) than any other club.
Davinson Sanchez (CB) – While most of the squad was crumbled in a soggy, sad heap after Conte’s famed and feared pre-season training sessions, Sanchez seemed remarkably un-frazzled and may get the nod ahead of new arrival Clement Lenglet at this early juncture.
Matt Doherty (RWB) – With Dele Alli departed, Doherty has seemingly filled the void as Dier’s best bud.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (CM) – No Spurs player completed more passes, won more tackles, made more blocks or interceptions than the combative Hojbjerg last term.
Rodrigo Bentancur (CM) – If new signing Yves Bissouma can’t recover from a tight hamstring in time, Bentancur may resume his partnership alongside Hojbjerg in a functional midfield pivot.
Ivan Perisic (LWB) – Playing beneath the cockerel atop the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the first time competitively, fittingly, Perisic’s nickname growing up was Koka (hen), because he helped on his father’s chicken farm.
Dejan Kulusevski (RW) – In Serie A, Kulusevski averaged an assist every 409 minutes. During his half-season cameo in the Premier League, that figure plummeted to one goal created every 158 minutes.
Harry Kane (ST) – During the wildly unreliable world of pre-season, Kane scored more goals (five) than the rest of his teammates combined (three, plus one own goal).
Son Heung-min (LW) – The South Korean starlet has scored more goals against Southampton (12) than any other club in his career.